Convicted burglar Gino D’Acampo has opened a restaurant in Birmingham. He is so keen on you knowing this that he has not only stuck his name above the door, but also emphasised that it is his restaurant, just on the off-chance you think his name might be used to endorse another restaurant that he also won’t be cooking in. The ego doesn’t stop there; inside is a shrine to D’Acampo, with pictures of him posing with various celebs gracing the decor that is presumably based on his favourite airport departure lounge, right down to the padded stools at the bar knocking out the most acerbic of Prosecco. Just in case you need reminding of his credentials outside of chewing on a kangaroo bollock live on TV, the menu is there to remind you at all times. Dishes are gathered from Gino’s TV shows and cook books, and those cook books are of course available to purchase in the restaurant. Everything has it’s own soundbite description from Gino just on the off-chance that you forget you are in his restaurant, eating food cooked by a chef who has probably never met him. It’s like they decided that the primary reason to visit is to experience the pastiche life of the chef, rather than to actually eat food. A notion they have successfully carried over onto the plate.
The food itself goes from good, to lacklustre, to downright awful. To their credit, the front-of-house remove the plates that haven’t been eaten from the bill without being asked, which softens the experience just enough for me to say that if you were ever in the area and Oyster Club, The Ivy, Fumo, San Carlo, Adams, Pint Shop, Pure Craft, Pieminister, Gusto, Rudy’s, Indian Streatery, Chung Ying Central, and Hotel du Vin were all shut I could probably recommend a dish to eat here. That dish is the bruschetta, the first and best thing I ate all afternoon. The tomatoes are carefully dressed with a lick of vinegar, I think a touch of sugar, and lots of salt. It’s simple and effective. I just wish I could say the same about the rest.
The recipe for the paté can be found on page 18 of ‘A Taste of The Sun’ which I implore you never disgrace your kitchen shelves with. It should never have left the kitchen. Freezer cold, the butter on top had to be cracked apart with a knife. The paté underneath grey and granular from overcooked livers, whilst the promised addition of masala is replaced with a backnote of iodine. When asked what he thought of the dish my dining companion noted to staff that ‘the ratio of bread to paté was good’, which is more barbaric than anything I have to say.
From main courses we get seabass that is a little overcooked, but at least servicable, with lentils that are undercooked and tragically underseasoned. A bowl of cavolo nero and tuscan cabbage might look like the remains of a heavy night on the booze but at least has decent flavour. The last dish is pasta and ragu – the acid test for any Italian restaurant worth its salt, and this was once again lacking salt. The pasta is fettucine; the thicker, more clumbersome Roman sibling of the tagliatelle, which was passable despite not being my personal choice to sit with the watery ragu that has the blunt metallic notes of concentrated tomato that hasn’t been cooked out long enough. It’s twelve pounds of misery, enough to make the staunchest of remainers vote to leave the EU. This isn’t Italian food. The accent is faked, the gesticulations purely for show. I’ll leave you to work out where I’m heading with this.
We have the sense not to order dessert, though if you do you could be treated to tiramisu, or rum baba, or chocolate torte; all lovingly made by Gino on TV and then recreated by his kitchen using the recipes from his cookbooks. As previously mentioned our bill wasn’t much because the excellent front-of-house removed the bad bits, but does that make it acceptable? Absolutely not. We ordered four dishes, two of which were sent back. I ate that very afternoon to put some food in my stomach. With its city centre location and celebrity association no doubt punters will flock here to see what it’s about. To make them come back is a entirely different scenerio and they are going to have to be much better. Fantastico it is not.
Wanna know what is fantastico? A2B Radio Cars